The Promise

The Promise

By Author / Illustrator

Nicola Davies, Laura Carlin, Laura Carlin




Walker Books Ltd




Paperback / softback




A picture book of great beauty and hope about the power we have to transform our world.

On a mean street in a mean city, a thief tries to snatch an old woman's bag. But she finds she can't have it without promising something in return - to \"plant them all\". When it turns out the bag is full of acorns, the young thief embarks on a journey that changes her own life and the lives of others for generations to come. Inspired by the belief that a relationship with nature is essential to every human being, and that now, more than ever, we need to renew that relationship, The Promise is the story of a magical discovery that will touch the heart and imagination of every reader, young and old. With poignant simplicity, honesty and lyricism, Nicola Davies evokes a powerful vision of a world where people and nature live in harmony. And Laura Carlin's delicate illustrations capture a young girl's journey from a harsh, urban reality to the beauty and vitality of a changed world.



Growing up 'mean and hard' in a city where nothing grew and everything was broken, a young thief snatches a handbag from an old lady - an easy victim - who won't let go until the thief has made her a promise. With no intention of keeping her word, the thief promises and discovers that the bag is full of acorns, 'so green, so perfect' and her heart is changed. She keeps her promise and begins to plant them everywhere, changing the landscape and the people who live there. The girl moves from place to place, planting the acorns and spreading joy, until one night a young thief steals her sack of acorns and a new cycle begins. This is a beautiful book with a powerful message. Offering the idea that quiet, persistent action is often more effective, it makes the perfect starting point for discussions and work about the environment. Carefully chosen vocabulary really challenges our thinking about the characters, settings and 'issues' of the story. There is so much that could be achieved when using a text like this with a class. In addition to all the wonderful literacy work it could inspire, it is perfect for using as part of the science curriculum, for PSHE work... or simply to encourage the children to make a promise of their own, showing how they could make a difference to their local environment - or further afield. The illustrations perfectly capture the contrast between the cold, grey, unforgiving world of the city and the colour and life given by the trees, showing the transformation caused by the girl's planting across the world. Simply wonderful! 48 pages / 5+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Suggested Reading Age 3+


Few picture books are told in the first person so it's good to find The Promise doing this so effectively. The story is narrated by a girl who tells us what happened to her the day she tried to steal an old woman's bag and how that action changed her life. The woman she stole from made her promise to plant what was inside. The girl promised, but found herself with a bag full of acorns. 'I held a forest in my arms and my heart was changed.' She sets about fulfilling her promise to plant the little acorns and through her actions transforms the city where 'Nothing grew. Everything was broken. No one ever smiled.' into a lush, green and happier landscape. By this point, the girl tells us, she had already moved on to another city and she continues her work of planting trees until she, too, is robbed of her acorns and forces the same promise from another young person. The narrative is delivered beautifully, supported by Laura Carlin's brilliant illustrations which highlight the bleakness of the girl's surroundings and the changes she makes. I'd recommend this for year 1 and 2 upwards for work alongside narratives and the environment. Picture book 48 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by Angela Core.

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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